NetSquared Spotlights are a series of interviews focused on the work of our amazing NetSquared Local Organizers around the world. Our local organizers are volunteers dedicated to helping create local opportunities for learning, sharing and using technology to make a difference. Each spotlight we will ask questions that profile our Net2 organizers' approach to community organizing so that others can learn from their experience.
It’s Time to Make a Change: If Not Now, When? Helping non-profits with IT and building youth entrepreneurship in Surrey in my spare time.
Why did you become a NetSquared Local organizer? (What inspired you to organize local NetSquared events in your community?)
I became a NetSquared Local organizer because the events organized by Eli van der Giessen in Vancouver were awesome. When taking a critical look at what the benefits to being an local organizer was it was too hard to resist. I think of it a chance to make new friends, have a positive impact in the community and be spoon fed knowledge/skills.
I’ve been helping our head organizer Eli with events since March 2013. I decided to take the plunge and started organizing NetSquared events in my own city in Surrey since then. The company I work with, NewGen Technologies, is also a huge supporter of nonprofits in BC and support me as a volunteer which is great.
Stevie and Eli at the Hootsuite HQ.
Do you have co-organizers? What are their roles? How did you find them?
We are currently running three different themed series of events with an organizer responsible for a particular theme. This helps keep responsibilities clear and allows us to provide our communities with regular programing easily to keep them engaged. The organizers of the themed events are also free to have their own co-organizers help as well. How we keep track of what everyone is up to is through a Trello board which we regularly update to make it easier to work together.
What’s your local social-web-tech scene like in Surrey, Canada?
For my own city the social-web-tech scene community is still in my opinion in its infancy stage and developing. I think this is a great opportunity to participate and be a leader in the development of the community at a very foundational level. Luckily, Eli has been doing it for years in Vancouver and with Surrey so close is able to provide resources and mentorship to help me move in the right direction.
What do your local participants really want to know? What are the most popular topics?
We are still on our first few events in Surrey and slowly discovering what our local participants really want to know. Some great ways to draw out the information that I’ve seen from our Vancouver events is the incorporation of feed back questions on the back of name tags. You just pre-print out nametags for everyone with general questions on the back before they arrive. At the end of the event you ask them to fill out the form on the back of their name tags and pass it back to you as they exit and walk out the building.
Another fantastic way by Crystal Henrikson where she lists out a series of workshops on a white board in columns and at the end of an event ask the audience to put their twitter handle or email under the workshops they want to attend. This not only lets you know which workshops or events interest the community but also provides you with a way to increase your mailing list and find potential co-organizers or volunteers for future events.
The sign up board for future workshops topics for Community Management
For what has been very popular in Vancouver it would have to be our series of workshops on community management and digital story telling.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
The hardest part for starting a new event in a city is increasing attendance and creating regulars. Alas, there is no instant relief to this challenge and from my own experience the only real solution is to provide workshops that the community wants and to keep doing it over and over again while providing as much value as you can.
Tell us about the best NetSquared Local event. What did you learn from that experience?
One of my favorite NetSquared local events would be our annual unconference. Ever been to a conference without an agenda? The event has no planned agenda at all with the entirety of the learning driven by the community. Everyone leaves happy as well since all the workshops are focused on issues/topics that they want to talk about. If your interested in reading a bit more about my experience you can check out my post on Techvibes Vancouver here.
The workshops created by the community for the community
Our coolest event though would have to be the social media surgery. We partnered up with a bunch of social media experts from HootSuite, Epicentr and The Social Media Network and got them to dress up as our social media “surgeons”. We then invited social enterprises to come be diagnosed on the spot for their social media challenges and be provided with the cure by our social media surgeons.
Eli explaining how our social media surgery for nonprofits will work
Our resident community management expert Crystal Henrickson
Orane the director of Epicentr sharing her expertise on social media
What’s the coolest thing that’s happened at one of your events?
Our coolest thing is our impact. As of November 2013 we’ve done over 25 events and delivered workshops to over ~900 attendees. A cool story though is the opportunities that arise from bringing together a great group of people. Here is an email we got back from one of our attendees and the connections he was able to create:
"I've been super busy starting my social website for community sharing but the last few months is been a pretty amazing journey. From attending a Net Tuesday event I connected with someone from Car Surfing which started the conversation that had me end up meeting with companies like Google and Facebook in San Francisco the same time as the "finding your story" event. I was also just confirmed to speak at We Day Vancouver on October 18. That one simple Net Tuesday night has done a lot for me!"
-Daniel Dubois, Director at The Collaborative Project
How do you measure the success of your events? (What do you consider a successful event? what does success look like?)
The first metric for me is that there is a steady increase in the number of regular attendees. The second metric is what I want the room to look like which is full of people!
How do you envision your NetSquared Local events evolving over time?
Eli’s event in Vancouver social-web-tech scene has a very vibrant community and a consistently great turn out. I want to see the community in my city develop the point where the event becomes a regular community gathering attendance representing all the social enterprises in the city.
How do you spend your time when you’re not organizing NetSquared Local events? (Do you have any side projects, other groups, other things you are working on that you want spotlighted?)
Besides organizing NetSquared Local Events, I help support a large variety not for profits with their day to day IT with our team at NewGen Technologies.
I also volunteer and lead a team of youth as a part of youth entrepreneurial initiative of a non-profit called Self-employment Entrepreneur Development Society. Our work helps a variety of people become self-employed, from unemployed individuals to women, youth and those with disabilities.
Finally I’m a proud university student in Kwantlen Polytechnic University Entrepreneurial Leadership degree. If your looking for a university that teaches you a lot of practical skills this is one of the best places to be at.
We help a large variety of individuals start their own businesses.
What’s your change-the-world philosophy?
It’s Time to Make a Change: If Not Now, When? If you can do something positive, whether if it’s for yourself or for the people around you, do it and don’t make any excuses.
Thanks to Stevie for letting us interview him for our latest NetSquared Spotlight! Stay tuned for future posts in the NetSquared Spotlight series.